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CAR HIRE: World Cup Infratructure Pays Dividends for Europcar


Recent Gauteng Business News

South Africa’s successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup may now only be a fond memory, but leading car rental company, Europcar, is making sure that multi-million rand infrastructure upgrades it embarked on to coincide with soccer’s four-yearly extravaganza will benefit its customers for many years to come.

Comprehensive branch, depot and IT improvements, have ensured that there will be a sustainable legacy from the World Cup and also an effective means for the company’s growth strategy to be realised.

While most of the upgrades were aimed at improving overall customer experience through enhancing ease of use, speed and efficiency, they have also been implemented to bring Europcar locally into line with the international brand and to maximise the environmental responsibility of its operations.

“Essentially, we used the World Cup as a deadline to implement changes that we had already planned. We believe that all these facility improvements we have introduced will provide major, ongoing benefits for our customers and enable us to meet our goals going forward, “said Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO of Europcar South Africa.

“During the World Cup period, we received a surprisingly high amount of pre-booked and walk-up business from the Europcar, National and Alamo networks, due to the global trust in and familiarity with the Europcar brand.”

Branch upgrades:

New branches at Cape Town International Airport (R3.5 million) and King Shaka International Airport (R5 million) have doubled the size of the facilities that previously existed in these two cities. Features of these new branches also include much larger kiosks and parking areas.

In Sandton alone, Europcar will have five branches once its current expansion programme is completed. This includes two new branches located at the Sandton Eye and opposite the Gautrain station. A new kiosk will be opening on Sandton’s Gautrain platform on 1 November. In addition, Europcar has signed a parking lease agreement for parking opposite the Gautrain station. Europcar’s facility at the Gautrain station in Sandton is open until 21h00 every day.
Depot upgrades:

After investing around R30 million in a 22,000 m2 depot at King Shaka International Airport in May, Europcar has opened another three depots in 2010: Port Elizabeth, 7000m2; George, 5000m2; and Nelspruit, 2000m2.

“Significantly, our new depots are all state-of-the-art facilities that are also extremely environmentally efficient,” said Nathan-Jones. It is important to note that our existing depots have been modified to mirror the efficiency of the new depots.”

As an environmentally responsible business, it was imperative that depots also be equipped with motion sensors and energy saving light fittings. Car maintenance, from servicing to panel beating, changing of tyres and replacement of glass, is done on-site to ensure that vehicles are turned around as quickly as possible to achieve maximum utilisation.

Staying in line with King Shaka International Airport’s nature conservation rules, Europcar’s new depot at this airport has not been painted, but treated with natural materials instead.

Perhaps, the most important environmental initiative is the introduction of a water recycling plant at all depots. These plants provide a simple, sustainable and environmentally responsible solution for the recovery and cleaning of wash-bay water, resulting in a dramatic reduction in water consumption.

The “e-washa” system focus on recycling water through rain harvesting and utilises a natural biological process that breaks down soap and grease in used wash-bay water.

IT upgrades:

IT/IS innovation is ongoing, with the World Cup being a mere catalyst in the journey for continuous improvement.

Living up to a global brand and going green in the true sense of the word has stimulated an accelerated initiative to drive technology harder across all customer touch-points, enabling the quest for greater efficiency and improved productivity.

The renewal of back-end server infrastructure, commenced in March 2010, has given the company the confidence of full business continuity going forward. Through the use of virtualisation server technology, high availability and replication of data storage and processors off-site was achieved, providing the well-timed edge to deal with unexpected system failures over the World Cup ‘rush’ Europcar’s key branches were set-up with printers, scanners and computers of a reputable global brand, backed-up by quality servicing with 24-hour on-site response.

Europcar South Africa’s networks - both WAN and LAN - were upgraded to cope with the transactional peaks and a broadband back-up in the event of a network glitch. Technology as an enabler to maintain a seamless operation was seen as a challenge, but became a triumph with a success rate equivalent to 99% being achieved.

In parallel, the company continued to drive reduction in paper transactions and in some instances eliminated paper altogether.

‘Information technology is critical in our quest to be more environmentally friendly; after all, we are the green car rental company. Many initiatives towards a more environmentally responsible environment are already underway’, says Nathan-Jones.

Whilst the world embraces the digital space, security and integrity of transactions and customer information are factors that cannot be compromised or neglected.

‘In addition to our continued responses to the day-to-day demands arising from an exponentially growing digital and e-commerce society, we will be embarking on many initiatives to re-design and re-invent ourselves, optimising the potential of technology in a people-orientated company’, says Nathan Jones.

“We see technology as an enabler towards us being able to deliver excellent customer service with a personal touch.”

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